The food at Blue Ridge Country Kitchen will be so good it'll make you slap your knee and holler. I can guarantee this, because I've been fortunate enough to wander by the test kitchen while the recipes were being perfected and was an eager taste tester. Although great food is the key ingredient for a successful restaurant, recipe development is just one of the many things that go into creating one.
Here, development started with the decision to update Wings, a long-time park favorite and the second busiest restaurant in the park. Since the new restaurant was going to be part of the new Blue Ridge Junction area, the exterior theming and decor ideas came together pretty quickly.
Early rendering of Blue Ridge Country Kitchen
We also recognized the need for more indoor seating to cool guests off in summer and warm them up during WinterFest, so the renovation included a new dining room. It then made sense to build in two serving lines so guests can tuck into their delicious country-style meals right away (we'll get to the lip-smackin' menu soon).
Detailed rendering of Blue Ridge Country Kitchen with color palette
In keeping with the laid-back country feel of Blue Ridge Junction, the restaurant decor will make you think you've stepped into a general store of days gone by.
Inspirational sketch for Blue Ridge Country Kitchen decor
With the basic structure and concept of the restaurant designed, it was time to take a good look at the practical side of things. "We design kitchens based on the menu and efficiency," said Lonnie Fox, Carowinds' director of food and beverage. "We needed to get the right equipment in the right places to enable a smooth operation."
Fox and team sketched a layout and a kitchen consultant helped finalize the design with all the little details in mind. Of course, that means the menu was already decided. What went into that decision? "We started asking ourselves, 'What don't we have that we should?' 'What's been successful at other amusement parks?' 'What fits the theme?'"
All this thinking led to the days I stood with executive chef Kris Siuta and his team, sampling rotisserie chicken and beef, sausages, collard greens and a creation tentatively called "rotisserie pizza." This drool-worthy combination of rotisserie-roasted chicken, beef and sausage layered over a creamy cheese sauce is the brainchild of Chef Kris. "I woke up and this flavor profile was just there - I could almost taste it," Siuta said. Still half asleep, he made some notes for the test kitchen. Soon after, I was sampling a bit of this savory deliciousness. The perfect complement? Copperhead Strike spicy sauce, another Carowinds original debuting this year.
Juicy and flavorful Blue Ridge Country Kitchen rotisserie chicken
Rounding out the menu at Blue Ridge Country Kitchen are roasted potatoes, homemade macaroni and cheese and Granny's Wild Berry Crumble. And you'll find another new delightful treat in Blue Ridge Junction, but you'll just have to wait until opening day for the big reveal. One hint: it'll spark some nostalgia in long-term park fans.